The Philadelphia School Partnership announced plans Thursday to buy 15,000 Chromebooks for students in city charter and parochial schools as learning moves online during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Jump-Start Philly Schools Fund, backed by $3.8 million in donations, will pay for laptops for students in more than 100 charter and Catholic schools, according to the partnership.
“Regardless of where they live in the city or what type of school they attend, students must have the opportunity to continue their learning,” Janine Yass, a cofounder of Boys Latin Charter School and board member of Philadelphia School Partnership, said in a news release.
Yass and her husband, Jeff, founder of the Bala Cynwyd investment firm Susquehanna International Group, donated $2.8 million to the new fund.
The announcement by the nonprofit partnership, which donates millions of dollars to city schools, comes as schools across the region have been distributing laptops for students to use at home during the coronavirus closures — though some districts with higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged students have been slower to get technology into their hands.
The Philadelphia school board last week authorized spending $11 million to purchase up to 50,000 computers. Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts and his family donated $5 million toward the purchase, while 76ers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer this week pledged a seven-figure donation to buy 10,000 of the laptops.
Philadelphia School Partnership said it surveyed charter schools — which are publicly funded but independently run — and the city’s Catholic schools to determine their needs.
Existing achievement gaps among students “may widen in this new world of remote learning,” said Mark Gleason, the partnership’s executive director. “Schools have a dual challenge of delivering new forms of instruction now and preparing for the learning loss many students will experience and bring back to schools whenever they are finally able to return.”
Schools receiving laptops include Mastery Charter Schools — the city’s largest charter operator — which will get 1,500, according to the partnership. Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools will receive 750, while Independence Mission Schools, a network of 15 Catholic elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods, will get 850.
The partnership said other schools serving low-income students should contact them. The new fund aims to raise $6 million in the coming months — not just to supply laptops, but to address learning needs going forward. The effort is also supported by the McCausland Foundation and the Lenfest Foundation. (A separate nonprofit, the unrelated Lenfest Institute for Journalism, is the owner of The Inquirer.)
In New Jersey, donations totaling $400,000 from the Camden Education Fund, Townsend Press, and Campbell Soup Co. meant the Camden School District could purchase Chromebooks for all of its high school students.
Other nonprofits have also been donating technology. Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha said last week it was distributing more than 600 tablets to 3- to 5-year-old pupils in its early childhood education programs in North Philadelphia.